|Litchfield Beach, SC|
So this past weekend I had a marvelous time hanging with my tribe - the South Carolina Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf crowd. Our annual conference was on Pawley's Island this year and even though I didn't make it to the beach (other than to snap that photo right quick from the boardwalk on Sunday before we drove home), I still came away feeling refreshed, renewed, ready...and REALLY TIRED.
Like down in my bones I cannot keep my eyes open one more second if you ask me to stand up I will crumple kind of tired. I am still that tired today, two days later.
This kind of gathering is good for my soul because I live in a family where no one but me signs. I work in an office where no one but me signs (because our other interpreter here is a contract/part-time type of employee and I never see her outside of the classes we team). I basically live in a world where the majority of people I know and call friends and family-of-choice have only a marginal understanding of my career and if they know any signs, it's basic communication.
Now, this is the point at which I apologize for omitting the disclaimer that I am not a CODA nor any other kind of native user of American Sign Language, but the fact that my first exposure to visual language came around the age of 10-11, I claim it as my second language. I think and dream in ASL more than English, even now. I'm constantly thinking about how something I see on telly or hear on the radio would be interpreted. It is part of me, even if I don't have native fluency.
That is why those people that I was with over the weekend are precious to me. I may know them so well that I call them friends or fam. I may have just met them THIS weekend. It doesn't matter - when you find your tribe and you share this language, this culture - this interpreter brain, whether Deaf or hearing - you're home. My hands and eyes are aching from all the extra work that they were doing over this weekend. But I wouldn't have traded a second of it - well, okay, the weird mushroom stalk I discovered in my pasta at tea on Friday night could go, for sure - for anything.
They get me, y'all, in a way that no one that isn't an interpreter can. I love my husband more than I can express. I love all of my greyhound and wolfhound friends, my Rennie fam, my Glisson fam, My Girls that I see almost every week...but this is different. I've said for years that I want to do some kind of scholarly research into sign language interpreters as a third culture, not just a Venn diagram crossover of the sets called Deaf and hearing.
Maybe it's time to look for a master's program. Maybe.
But for sure, I need to have more of my tribe in my life, and not just once or twice a year at the conference - so that it won't be quite so many minutes between feeling this heard/seen/understood.